1. indy5live
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    indy5live Active Member

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    Too many beats?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by indy5live, May 17, 2012.

    Mixing dialog with action is important but can you have too many beats?

    "How is your morning," Jill asked Joe as she waits for her coffee to cool.
    Blowing over his own coffee, Joe replies, "It's alright I guess, another day."
    Taking a sip from her coffee to mask the awkwardness of the situation, Jill decides to try another topic, "Did you watch the game last night?"
    Joe takes a few seconds to wait for a nearby waitress to walk away before answering, "Stop pretending like we are alright, we aren't alright! You slept with my best friend."
    Clinching her first, Jill exclaims, "I only did it because you slept with my sister!"
    Leaning in closely, Joe whispers, "And she rocked my world! Way better than you've ever done!"
    blah blah blah...

    Too many beats?
     
  2. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    The exchange was somewhat awkward. It seemed to me that you explain too much that could be apparent with less effort. The awkwardness could be conveyed with the dialogue itself and maybe a tapping finger, one of the parties not looking at the other, etc. Also, you don't need to tag every snippet of dialogue. As there are only two people involved, the reader can tell who is talking. Also, the first tag is past tense, "Jill asked..." while the rest are present. I found somewhat jarring.
     
  3. TatteredMemories
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    TatteredMemories New Member

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    I think it needs a bit of reformatting.

    I'm rarely a fan of actions coming before the speech unless it's important to what's being said, or the scene--for instance, if someone taps a pen against their chin to think before saying something. If this is such an urgent conversation (as assumed by the exclamation marks), why would you want to make a reader wait before reading it? The hesitation in the first half is great. It plays to the awkwardness you need to convey. I would redo the last two lines, as follows:

    "I only did it because you slept with my sister!" Jill exclaimed, clenching her fist.
    "And she rocked my world!" Joe furiously whispered back, leaning in close. "Way better than you ever did!"


    I think this gives the conversation the important part, and fills in the details in between--that it's a rapid-fire response type of deal. People do more reacting than thinking when they're upset, and the reader usually does, too. If the argument is important and packed with tension, I think this gives it the instant-gratification of finding out what happens next at the same time they get the emotional explosion.

    OH, and if the whole story is happening now, not being told from a past-perspective, then feel free to revise my changes to present-tense.
     
  4. indy5live
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    indy5live Active Member

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    Lol, this was just an example on the fly that has nothing to do with my particular project but I do indentify the speaker way to often probably. But the first half of my novel feels like a lot of sitting around and talking, so there really isn't a lot of action taking place. So I decided to go back and add beats similar to the above just to having something going on. I could have easily made the first half of my book a screenplay but the second half has tons of action so I have to find some way to spice up first half outside of solid, interesting and engaging, dialog.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Of course you can have too many beats. Beats are most effective when they fall in a natural lull in the conversation. Too many beats can make the conversation feel jumpy or choppy.

    Keep your beats concise, or the lulls will feel like stalls.

    Also, watch your narrative tense.
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can have too much of anything. I think you got too many when you really have no point to them. Try to make them fit with everything going on.

    But with your example, I am not sure it's the quantity of the beats that is the issue as much as the quality of them. For example, despite the beats, there are still an abundance of tags, and somewhat clunky ones at that.
     
  7. Gnarly
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    Gnarly Member

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    No familiar with the lingo yet, "beats" ... clearly from what I read, I think I understand what "beats" is. But will someone explain "beats" to me so if I need to use this phrase, I will know exactly what I'm talking about.
     
  8. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I'm going to try explain it. 'He said' is the tag of the dialogue and the beat is what comes after the comma.
    For example: "I'm going home," she said, picking up her umbrella.
    What I italicized is a beat.

    If I'm wrong, someone please correct me :)
     
  9. C.B Harrington
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    C.B Harrington Member

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    There are a couple different kinds of beats in writing. In this case, beats are referring to the description before/after the dialogue, doing too much description can break the conversation to the reader. In this case, it does a little, but not to a great extent.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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  11. Gnarly
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    Gnarly Member

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    AHHHH! I read the Mechanics of Dialogue.... that makes so much more sense now. Thank you guys.
     

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